The First Sonbeam

There Stands A Tree
The 1st Sonbeam, September 1999, from warren powell

Early this morning, as dawn is shedding her light across the face of Tyler, I am sitting in my front yard, listening to my neighborhood awaken. Many birds are calling and whistling their good mornings to one another, each in their own beautiful way.

About 25 feet away stands an old, timeworn tree whose leaves months ago were swallowed by fall. Barely visible in the dim light, outlined against the sky, it is the perch for only one bird this morning, answering the call of another.

Fifteen minutes later the limbs, branches, bark, are now visible, the bird continues to sing, yet I cannot see it. How wonderful the sound—like God himself is speaking to me. But where is the source of that great sound? Maybe the bird is so small that it’s hidden behind a limb. I quietly get out of my chair, walking slowly to the other side of the tree. Still nothing.

The neighboring chorus is growing more numerous now. I stand facing only this one tree…my eyes strain to see, my ears waiting to hear the bird’s response. I watch that area of the tree where I last heard the song. Still nothing but sky and wood—I see no living creature that sings.

That singular sound again. I can’t be more than 10 feet away from it, but still cannot find the winged singer. Who is offering up that wonderful gift of God? From what limb, what branch, which twig?

All of a sudden, from within a very small crack or hole in one of the larger branches, a beak sticks out, outlined against the morning sky. Now a head. Now a song! Oh great soloist, sing, sing, sing. Hidden in a scarred, dead part of the tree, you were there all the time. How was I to know what was inside?

Why did I look for you only where I expected to find you? Woodpecker, swallow, your name and looks make no difference. It’s your song that blesses me this day. Even when all the limbs are bathed with a basket of rainbow colored leaves, that hole you call home shows me nothing special, nothing of beauty, and nothing of use. Until now, I thought I had no reason to thank God for that plain little place.

How many times in my life have I made the same mistake both with trees, and more importantly, with people that I have met? Looking at the outside. Seeing holes in dead trees. Thinking I knew the right places to look, the right things to see.

All the time, it was as though God was saying, “Warren, you are being blind to my beauty….. deaf to my voice. I love and build on the inside of people. In hurt places. Inside both the beautiful and the ugly. Bringing light where there is darkness. Birthing song where there is silence. Inside the heart.”

Lord, teach me this day to open my eyes to your world.